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The arrival of fall doesn’t have to signify a retreat indoors. A tabletop fire pit can extend the outdoor season, making deck dining more cozy and less chilly. And as the days get shorter, it serves as both an added light source and a spot to roast s’mores, making it a functional and fun addition. The best tabletop fire pits are well designed, easy to use, and operational in more than just optimal weather conditions. (We’re looking at you, fall breezes.) Here are four that we tried and loved, plus tips for designing your backyard space around your new mini fire pit.
Best Flame: Colsen Rectangular Fire Pit
Rectangular Fire Pit, Colsen ($150)
Fuel source: Ethanol (you can use 70% or 91% isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, from the drugstore) | Size: 4 inches x 4 inches x 18 inches | Weight: 19 pounds | Necessary accessories: Fuel, long-handed lighter, and, while a cover isn’t required, it’s a useful addition
What we like:
- Large flame and solid heat generation
- Works indoors and outdoors
- No messy cleanup
- Only lasts 40 to 50 minutes at a time (and additional fuel can’t be added until it cools again)
Why we chose it: Because gathering around a fire is still the best way to end an evening and this option offers an impressive flame followed by a no-mess cleanup.
Colsen’s rectangular model produces a large flame without the soot, smoke, or messy cleanup of a wood-fueled fire. It’s super easy to use and can even be lit indoors, but the fuel source does have one drawback: You can’t refuel while the fire pit is still hot. Our tester found that using 91% isopropyl alcohol over 70% made a difference in its burn time (of 40 to 50 minutes), as did filling the fuel up to the max line. And while the fire doesn’t last as long as others on this list, it’s incredibly easy to use, and the shorter-lived fires still satisfy for post-dinner drinks or on a cooler afternoon.
Best Wood/Pellet: Solo Stove Mesa
Mesa, Solo Stove ($85)
Fuel source: Wood or pellets | Size: 5.1 inches x 6.8 inches | Weight: 1.4 pounds | Necessary accessories: N/A
What we like:
- Both fuel options can be food safe (just be sure to look for food-safe pellets)
- Super lightweight and comes with a carrying case–great for beach trips, camping, and s’mores on the go
- Six color options
- Firewood must be small to fit, but Solo Stove sells mini oak firewood
- Requires more cleanup than gel- or alcohol-based models
Why we chose it: Because instant (and portable) s’mores will make you the favored party guest.
Solo Stove is a brand synonymous with well-designed fire pits and backyard fun. But not everyone has a dedicated outdoor zone set up permanently for hanging around a fire, or even room for a large fire pit. For smaller spaces and outdoor areas where flexibility is key, the Mesa is a great way to get the warmth of a fire without taking up much space. Big enough for s’mores and light enough to make it an appealing on the go option, this model is about the size of a football, comes in a carry bag, and includes a small stand that folds away when not in use. For those who don’t like gel- or alcohol-fueled fires, this is a great option. Bring it to parties, picnics, or rooftop gatherings and you’ll suddenly find yourself on every guest list.
Best Gel: Terraflame Basin Firebowl
Basin Firebowl, Terraflame ($120)
Fuel source: Terraflame’s fuel cans, which are 99.9 percent isopropyl alcohol and ethanol with a little thickening agent | Size: 11 inches x 4 inches | Weight: 15 pounds | Necessary accessories: A 3-pack of gel fuel cans is included, but adding an order of 12 makes sense for long-term use.
What we like:
- Cork-lined bottom won’t scratch the table
- Each fuel can lasts for 3 hours and can be sealed if not used in one go
- Mess-free, clean burn
- Extra fuel cans run about $5.75 each (based on the price of a 12-pack), though they’re also available in 6-packs and 24-packs
- Fire can be a little tricky to put it out
- Flathead screwdriver needed to open gel can
Why we chose it: Because there’s nothing quite like the snap and crackle of a fire…well, except this imitation.
This fire bowl is easy to use (place the can, pop the top, and light the gel) but also carefully designed so you’re not staring at the fuel can. The can fits perfectly in the holder so it disappears from sight, leaving only the top and flame visible. And while this option doesn’t generate the warmth of a wood-fueled fire, it does produce a nice bit of heat and a large and vibrant flame. Best of all, it crackles and snaps like a real fire. Terraflame includes a bag of rocks to line the bowl with, but you can customize the look a bit more by swapping in rocks from your own garden. (We checked, the brand says that’s just fine.)
Best Candle Alternative: K Lawrence Cone Outdoor Personal Fire Pit Semi-Round
Outdoor Fire Pit, K Lawrence ($158 and up)
What we like:
- Available in three hand-painted colors and a variety of compelling shapes
- A liter of fuel lasts about 30 hours
- Burns clean
- Best to set it up in a designated spot because it’s heavy
- Must use Lovinflame fuel with this fire pit
Why we chose it: Because everyone looks better in the glow of candlelight—and this one will actually stay lit outside.
This personal fire pit is a nice addition to a party tablescape, particularly because it’ll stay lit for hours without any attention. No, it will not stand up to gale-force winds, but where a light breeze will blow out a candle, this alternative keeps burning. Made from concrete, the sculptural, vessel-like design is solid and heavy, so it should have a designated spot on the table. Just fill the glass canister with Lovinflame fuel, light the stainless steel mesh wick, and enjoy yourself. Any fuel left over in the glass canister can be poured back into the bottle for subsequent use.
Another Outdoor Accessory We Love
While tabletop fire pits produce great s’mores and the grill is the obvious go-to for burgers and dogs, pizza ovens have become the trendiest backyard accessory over the past few years. Having done some very cheesy testing, we’re confident in saying it’s not a passing fad…unless you think you might someday be “over” pizza. Here are a few favorites for making delicious pies in the backyard.
- Best Small Size: Solo Stove Pi This sleek stainless-steel number churns out delicious 12-inch pizzas. It comes with a lifetime warranty and can be purchased with dual fuel capacity. (And, bonus: It also matches Solo Stove’s fire pits.)
- Best High Quantity: Gozney Roccbox With a large interior, rolling flame, and temperatures reaching up to 900 degrees, this model is great for large gatherings. It can churn out pizza after pizza and then get easily packed away for the next party.
- Best Gas-Powered: Ooni Coda 16 Powered by a propane tank or gas line, Ooni’s design makes pizzas so good you won’t even miss the smoky flavor of wood-burning ovens. The brand also sells artisanal groceries and accessories (including our favorite, the infrared thermometer) for one-stop pizza shopping.
How We Chose These Products
Since wood isn’t the only option for fuel these days, we researched gel-, alcohol-, and pellet-powered tabletop fire pits, weighing the pros and cons of each. We searched for industry stalwarts and up-and-coming standouts. Finally, we put our finds to the test on both windy and calm nights to see how our contenders held up, then highlighted the top performers.
Our Shopping Checklist
A tabletop model is never going to produce as much heat as a larger floor-bound fire pit. Amongst the tabletop options, we found that the wood/pellet-burning fire pit produced the most heat, with Colsen’s large fire pit coming in second when using the maximum amount of fuel. K Lawrence’s fire pit, our best candle alternative, produced nice light but not much heat. Terraflame’s fire bowl generated moderate heat for two people sitting in close proximity to the bowl. So if you want a tabletop fire pit that throws off solid heat, consider wood burning or a design that will produce a large flame, like our Colsen pick, since that’ll generate more heat than a fire pit with a smaller burn surface like K Lawrence’s design.
Size & Shape
Bigger isn’t always better, as the small but mighty Solo Stove Mesa proves. But for a large, long table, a centrally placed Colsen looks great, as do two or three Terraflame or K Lawrence models. With a trio, consider mixing up different shapes. For a small table, try a more narrow and tall model. Except for the Solo Stove, these fire pits are heavy, so they should ideally have a designated spot instead of being moved around constantly.
Some people prefer the smell of woodsmoke and the experience of tending a wood fire, no matter how small. But alternative fuel sources make a compelling case: They’re quick and easy to use with a largely mess-free cleanup. Terraflame’s gel fuel even snaps and crackles like a wood fire. Colsen’s ethanol fuel is clean enough that their model can be used indoors, according to the brand. But the drawback of these alternative fuel sources is that you can’t continue to stoke the fire when the fire pit is hot. Colsen’s fire pit, for example, runs for 40 to 50 minutes, and then must cool completely before more fuel can be added. These alternative fuels also lack the rich smell of a wood fire. When shopping for a fire pit, determine whether you prioritize convenience or the classic experience to figure out which fuel source is best for you.
Always read the instructions that come with a fire pit, and make sure whoever else will operate it reads them, too. There are some general safety rules that apply no matter the model—never leave it unattended, for example—and some more specific ones, too. Terraflame’s instructions, for example, include a note that it should be at least 12 inches from the nearest wall and 60 inches from the ceiling. Don’t move a fire pit when it’s already lit, and never add liquid fuel to a hot fire pit. And a tabletop fire pit needs to sit on a stable, sturdy surface, so no rickety tables or uneven surfaces. If you’re planning to roast marshmallows, make sure to get a unit that’s meant for that and always double check fuel source packaging or website to make sure it’s food safe.
Q: What table should I put my tabletop fire pit on: the outdoor dining table, coffee table, or a smaller side table?
We turned to Erin Fetherston, a fashion and interiors designer, to get her advice on outdoor spaces. “Depending on the configuration of the space, I like tabletop fire pits best on an outdoor coffee table, which naturally anchors the seating areas,” she says. But if you don’t have a seating area around a low table, a tabletop design can also go on your outdoor dining table as the centerpiece. Wherever you put it, make sure the table is sturdy and secure.
Q: Does a tabletop fire pit provide enough light for my backyard?
No; you’ll definitely want another light source or two. “I like a combination of overhead and tabletop lighting to light outdoor spaces,” says Fetherston. “It creates both ambiance and provides enough light to see.” On a deck, overhead lighting might be easy to wire. But string lights look great in a variety of outdoor spaces, and solar powered lights are another great option.
Q: My outdoor space doesn’t have room for a seating area and a dining area. What should I do?
Fetherston has great advice for small outdoor spaces. “When you don’t have space for both a dining and seating area, it’s nice to combine the two functionalities either by prioritizing a dining table and using very comfy upholstered chairs which are nice to lounge in—or, if you want to prioritize a seating area, you can add floor cushions or poufs under or around the coffee table to accommodate light meals,” she says. “This is a great approach for families with young children as the lower table height works well for them.”
The Last Word
As anyone who has tried to host a candlelight gathering outdoors on a breezy evening knows, a flame that doesn’t require perfect wind-free conditions and a lot of attention is going to work much better. Today’s tabletop fire pits are great for a chilly fall night, impromptu s’mores, or creating a festive atmosphere—and they work well everywhere from tiny terraces to sprawling backyards.
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